The Beautiful Game (Portuguese: o jogo bonito) is a nickname for association football, popular within media and advertising though rarely used by fans, which was popularised by the Brazilian professional footballer Pelé. Although the exact origin of the phrase is disputed, football commentator Stuart Hall used it in 1958. Hall admired Peter Doherty when he went to see Manchester City play at Maine Road and used the term "The Beautiful Game" to describe Doherty's style when playing.
The exact origins of the term are disputed. The origin has been attributed to Brazilian footballer Waldyr Pereira (Didi), and the presenter Stuart Hall claimed to have originated it in 1958. The English author and football fanatic H. E. Bates used the term earlier, including in a 1952 newspaper piece extolling the virtues of the game entitled "Brains in the Feet".
Brazilian footballer Pelé is credited with making the phrase synonymous with football. In 1977, he named his autobiography My Life and the Beautiful Game. The book's dedication reads "I dedicate this book to all the people who have made this great game the Beautiful Game." The phrase has entered the language as a description for football.
It is used as a title for the 13-part 2002 series charting the history of the game: History of Football: The Beautiful Game, narrated by the actor Terence Stamp.
The song “Wavin' Flag” – rapper K'naan‘s Coca-Cola promotional anthem for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – contained the lyric “let’s rejoice in the Beautiful Game.”
In January 2014, New Model Army released a song called The Beautiful Game in support of the project "Spirit of Football". A football podcast was released with the title "The Beautiful Game".
Sportswear company Nike has referenced the beautiful game in its football commercials. In 1996, a Nike commercial titled "Good vs Evil" was a gladiatorial game set in a Roman amphitheatre where ten football players from around the world, including Eric Cantona, Ronaldo, Paolo Maldini, Luís Figo, Patrick Kluivert and Jorge Campos, defend "the beautiful game" against a team of demonic warriors, which culminates in Cantona receiving the ball from Ronaldo, pulling up his shirt collar, and delivering the final line, "Au Revoir", before striking the ball and destroying evil.
Nike also uses the Portuguese phrase Joga bonito—meaning "play beautifully", and not "beautiful game", which would be Jogo bonito—as one of its slogans for football products. Nike began using the slogan Joga bonito in a campaign preceding the 2006 FIFA World Cup in an attempt to curb players' behaviours on the pitch. In collaboration with, and promoted by, former international footballer Eric Cantona (who once karate-kicked a fan), Nike released a series of adverts to promote a game that is skillful and dignified, not riddled with theatrics and poor sportsmanship.
^Harper, Nick (2 May 2003). "Stuart Hall". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 April 2011. The player I fell in love with and who inspired me to coin the phrase "the beautiful game" was Peter Doherty, an inside forward, my first hero.